By Alexander Bolton - 05/23/13 09:00 AM EDT
Tea Party activists from around the country are eager to see Sarah Palin run for the Senate, but Republican senators themselves aren’t rushing to recruit her.
A recent poll shows Palin would lead the Republican field if she ran for Senate in Alaska. And while Tea Party activists are running a “Draft Sarah” campaign, Republican leaders in Washington appear decidedly less interested in the prospect.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who has feuded with Palin in the past, said the former Alaska governor has become detached from the state.
“I think there are a lot of outside interests that would like to see Sarah Palin in some form of elected office. Most in Alaska recognize our former governor is really not involved in or engaged in the state anymore, that she’s moved to other interests,” Murkowski said. “In order for you to represent the state of Alaska, you’ve got to be in the state.”
During the 2008 presidential race, Palin privately said, “I just don’t want to go back to Alaska,” according to the book, Sarah from Alaska. A similar line was used in the HBO movie, “Game Change.”
Some Republicans in Washington don’t think Palin, who resigned as governor with 18 months left in her term, would be the best candidate to challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Begich (Alaska).
A Harper poll from earlier in the year showed Begich leading Palin 47 percent to 40.
Palin might not even get an endorsement from Murkowski in a race against Begich.
Palin campaigned for Murkowski’s challenger, Joe Miller, in Alaska’s three-way general election race for Senate in 2010. Palin called Murkowski an “out of touch liberal,” further souring a relationship that was never strong after Palin defeated Murkowski’s father, Frank, in his 2006 gubernatorial reelection bid.
Murkowski bashed Palin’s leadership qualities after winning a surprising write-in campaign against Miller.
“I just do not think that she has those leadership qualities, that intellectual curiosity that allows for building good and great policies,” she told CBS’s Katie Couric.
Murkowski said Wednesday she would hold off on deciding about an endorsement in the Republican primary until the field is more fully formed.
Treadwell has announced that he’s exploring a Senate bid.
Sen. Jerry Moran (Kan.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), has not reached out to Palin to gauge her interest in the Senate.
“I’ve had no conversations with Gov. Palin. I’ve had no indication of an interest that I know of communicated to the NRSC,” he said.
Moran, however, acknowledged she could quickly raise millions of dollars for the race.
“Sarah Palin has a wide following [and] national fundraising supporters,” he said.
Moran said he met with Treadwell “several months ago.”
Miller is another possible candidate.
Tea Party activists are eager for Palin to get back into elected office. The Tea Party Leadership Fund, which commissioned the recent Harper poll showing her leading the GOP field, has amassed more than 60,000 signatures on a petition calling for her to run.
“The Tea Party Leadership Fund has a broad audience of grassroots conservative activists, and they feel very strongly that she’s a champion of their values and would love to see her run, and we’re doing everything we can to see her run,” said Dan Backer, the fund’s treasurer.
Backer said the Senate Republican conference needs more members in the mold of Tea Party favorites, such as Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
Backer says Palin has yet to comment on the campaign to draft her for the 2014 Senate race.
Brock McCleary, the Harper pollster, said Palin’s fundraising network and high name identification gives her the luxury of waiting to get into the race.
“My suspicion is that she would utilize that luxury and wait as long as possible to see if dynamics of a primary between Treadwell and Miller would provide her an opening to run,” he said.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who put Palin on the national stage when he picked her as his vice presidential running mate in 2008, said she would be “great” addition to the Senate.
“I think she’d be fantastic,” he said. “She has a great national following, and I think she would have an immediate impact.”
There was speculation that Palin was eyeing a Senate run in Arizona after she bought a house in north Scottsdale in 2011. She later denied that she was interested in replacing then-Sen. Jon Kyl (R).
In 2010, Palin signed on with the Fox News Channel as a paid contributor. Earlier this year, Palin and the cable news network parted ways.
A spokesperson for Palin’s political action committee didn’t comment for this article.